I love making a gingerbread house at Christmas time. However, I’m never any good at eating it. When you’ve worked so hard to assemble this work of edible art it’s heartbreaking to have to destroy it. Therefore I thought what about a gingerbread village? Little houses so you could eat them one at a time and not feel bad for destroying your entire creation! So that’s what I did.
These have been a labour of love I tell you! I actually made the gingerbread weeks ago but never quite had the time to sit down and get on with putting them together. As a result I ate a bunch of the sweets I had been going to use and there were more than a few breakages and someone, I’m looking at you dad, ate a roof tile. In theory this recipe makes 6 little gingerbread cottages. I got 3. But such is life.
This gingerbread dough isn’t perhaps the ideal one you’re looking for to make houses but it does make an excellent biscuit. It spreads a little inconsistently while baking so I got some wonky bits and the dough is easiest to work with while still warm, after that it starts to crack a little while you’re handling it. For that reason I haven’t given you the pattern I used for my houses, but they were about 3″x4″. Next year I’ll be trying a different recipe for my houses but for biscuits to eat or hang on the tree I think this could be a winner.
Makes 6 3″x4″ houses or, in theory, 1 large house. Make 1/2 if for biscuits unless you need dozens.
250g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and find every baking tray in the house.
– Melt together the butter, sugar and syrup in a large pan.
– Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger in a large mixing bowl and mix them together.
– Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour and mix well with a spoon until a dough is formed.
– Roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. (You will have to do this in batches unless you’re very good and have a large work surface.)
– Cut out your shapes and place on lined baking trays.
– Bake for 10-12 minutes watching carefully because it is very easy to burn these. Try to get the houses each on one tray so they’re a consistent colour.
– Allow to cool on the trays for 5 minutes until hard then cool completely on a wire rack.
– Repeat for the rest of the batches.
To assemble the houses I use a ‘glue’ made from 200g icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp boiling water. You can use royal icing if you want it to be stronger but this tastes much better. I pipe strips of icing down the edges of the ‘sides’ then carefully press all 4 walls together, you may need an extra pair of hands for this part. Then I allow that stage to dry. Once dried I put on the roof tiles again by piping strips of icing all around the top of the house then very gently pressing down the tiles. Then I pipe a line along the apex. The chimneys, if making, are done in almost exactly the same way. I leave the houses to dry, preferably for an hour, then get on with decorating with sweets using the same kind of ‘glue’ to stick everything on.
I’ve been putting off making fudge for a while now but it’s only a few days until christmas and it could wait no longer. I made 2 types, White Chocolate and Bailey’s Fudge and regular Chocolate Fudge The basic recipe is the same you just add different stuff at the end. The possibilities are endless!
I didn’t think I liked fudge for some reason but this stuff is delicious! Especially warm scraps out of the pan at the very end. The Bailey’s flavour develops really well as it cools and the regular chocolate is very very tempting. So tempting in fact that when I went out leaving the very last slice I’d kept back for myself on the table the dog jumped up and ate it! So I had a sugar high puppy and no fudge. 😦
I admit I burnt the first batch (White Chocolate and Baileys, below) I made as I didn’t know what I was doing. Well, it wasn’t actually burnt, that’s the odd thing. It just developed brown caramel pieces in it as I had it on too high a temperature. It tasted absolutely fine, in fact I rather liked the texture, and the pan had nothing stuck to it at all so I’m not quite sure what happened. So “caramel bits” they shall be!
Makes 1 8x8x8 cake tin
405g tin condensed milk
450g demerara sugar
115g unsalted butter
Flavourings of your choice:
200g white/plain/milk chocolate (break into small chunks first)
50ml alcohol (Bailey’s, Cointreau, etc.)
– Line your cake tin with foil.
– Put everything in a large, deep pan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved. (It will no longer feel grainy on the bottom.)
– Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
– Lower the heat again and very gently simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring constantly. The liquid will bubble up (watch it doesn’t boil over) and then die back down again. Keep stirring constantly and briskly. Once it starts to thicken, or if you see any hint of brown flecks forming, remove from the heat.
– To test the fudge drop a small spoonful into a jug of cold water. It should form a soft ball, not ribbons. (I was using a sugar thermometer but my fudge didn’t get to soft ball on the thermometer but still formed a soft ball in practice so best to do it the old-fashioned way here.)
– Here is where you add any flavourings and stir until thoroughly melted/combined.
– Pour the hot fudge into the prepared tin, smooth down a little if necessary, and then leave to cool completely.
– Turn out and lightly score where you want to cut then cut the fudge into chunks.
Bagels are, in theory, very easy to make. If you can make a simple bread then you have all the skills you’ll need for bageling. However, it seems to be an acknowledged problem that unless you have very good luck your first batch won’t be great. You have to learn by experience with bagels it would seem! *
[ * I have now given bagels another go and it was indeed my fault the first time, see my Bagel Update for how to get those holes in.]
The problem with these bagels was that I left them for too long on the second rise coz the kitchen was occupied. This meant that they just collapsed after poaching. They’re still delicious but rather flat. Something of a cross between an English Muffin, melba toast and a bagel really! I also didn’t make the holes big enough so they have dimples instead. But I make these mistakes so you don’t have to. Take heed and don’t over rise and make a bigger hole!
The other problem I’m having at the minute is the temperature. We’ve got 6″ of snow! Unless the fire’s going in the evening I don’t have anywhere to rise bread so I’m having to just about double the time for everything. Even regular baking is going a bit haywire as everything’s too cold! I did the first rise overnight but didn’t need to use the fridge, the whole house is a fridge!
450g bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
250ml warm water
3 tbsp sugar
seeds for sprinkling
1 egg white
– Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
– Make a well in the centre and add the warm water and honey. This should be quite a stiff dough so you may not need all of the water keep back a few tbsp and go very gradually, mixing a little between additions.
– Mix with a spoon until combined into a dough.
– Turn out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for about 10 minutes until soft and smooth.
– Lightly oil a clean bowl and leave overnight in a cold place or in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. Overnight is recommended as more flavour develops.
– Prepare 2 baking sheets with baking paper brushed with oil.
– Once risen knock down and divide the dough into 10 roughly equal balls.
– Roll into spheres by cupping your hand over the ball on the work surface and rolling it around until even.
– Poke a hole in the middle using a wooden spoon.
– Use your fingers to coax the hole bigger until you can get your hand inside it.
-Roll the circle a bit bigger and looser. **
– Lay down on your oiled baking paper keeping the hole at around 2 inches if you can. The dough will be quite elastic so this will take a bit of cunning!
– Leave to rise for about 20 minutes until they’re puffed up. ***
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 and get a very large pot of water to the boil with the last 3 tbsp of sugar, you want the absolute biggest pot you can get and it wants to be a good 3-4″ deep. It doesn’t want to be a rolling boil but just simmering.
– Once the bagels have risen slip them into the water in batches and poach for one minute on each side using a spatula to flip them.
– Fish them out and drain them off a bit and put them back on the oiled tray. Brush with the egg white let down with a little water and whisked a bit and sprinkle on any toppings you like. I used nigella seeds.
– Put the trays in the oven and cook for 10 minutes then flip over the bagels and switch the trays over and cook for another 10 minutes until golden brown.
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes then enjoy!
** See the Bagel Update for a better technique, twirl the ball round the stick to get a bigger hole.
*** This is unnecessary it would seem but feel free to give them a bit of a rest before poaching.
While I’m feeling organised I thought I’d get this recipe up before I forget all about it. I found a hedge full of crab apples while out walking the dog a few weeks ago and although I didn’t know if they were edible I picked as many as I could get. Luckily they turned out to be very edible! I didn’t actually manage to get that many so I bulked them up with cooking apples that I couldn’t store as they were bruised windfalls. Then I had 2 quince laying about so I chucked those in too. It was a bad year for quince round these parts it would seem. So mixed apple jelly was born! It’s a beautiful colour and smells divine.
The best book on preserves ever is Let’s Preserve It by Beryl Wood. Alas it is out of print so I may have to “borrow” it from my mother at some point in the future. If I want to put something in a jar this book is my first port of call. It’s magic! This has been my first year of making jams, chutney and other things and I’m starting to get the hang of it now. I used to be terrified of boiling sugar but now I’m a dab hand! On the subject of sugar a lot of recipes I’ve googled say to use caster sugar. Don’t. Use granulated. It’s much cheaper, which is great when using in these quantities, and the size of the sugar crystals makes for better jams and other preserves.
Quantity varies according to how much apple you start with.
mixed apples: crab apples, cooking apples, eating apples, even quince
1 tbsp lemon juice
a knob of butter
– Chop up the apples into chunks, don’t bother to core or peel them.
– Put them in a very large pan and cover with water.
– Bring to the boil and simmer until soft and pulpy, about 30 minutes -1 hour.
– Line a seive with muslin and suspend over a large mixing bowl.
– Tip the apple mixture into the seive and cover with the corners of the muslin to keep flies off. DO NOT PRESS OR SQUEEZE or you will get cloudy jelly.
– Leave overnight to drip into the bowl.
– Measure how much liquid you have and add 1 lb sugar for every pint of liquid you have.*
– Put these together in a large pan and add the lemon juice.
– Bring to the boil and simmer at a good rolling boil for 10-15 minutes until setting point is reached.**
– Skim off the scum until you reach a good violent boil then add a knob of butter. This jelly does throw a lot of skum so you have to call it quits at some point of you’d be there forever!
– Decant into warm, sterilised jars and put the lids on while hot. This jelly sets fast so work quickly.
*I got a perfect 1 1/2 pints and so added 1 1/2 lbs. Usually I’m a metric girl but often jams just work better in imperial, imperial seems more fitting to me anyway.
** I am now a convert to the sugar thermometer. I didn’t want to be but it does make things a lot easier. Mine has all the necessary points marked on it and is made so you can’t touch the nib to the bottom of the pan and also has a very useful clip to attach it to the side of the pan.
To test the if the setting point has been reached hold up the spoon and see how the drips form. If they’re slow and large then test it. Keep a saucer in the freezer and place a small amount of the jam on this, leave it for a moment then push your finger across the saucer. If the jam wrinkles ahead of your finger it has reached setting point. The bubbles are also a good indicator, they should be big, about 1cm, not tiny little ones.
I christen this dish French Chicken as I saw it on a French food blog A Foodie Froggy in Paris and it is full of French flavours. The other qualifier is that it is needessly complicated in places as all great French food should be! I tweaked the recipe here and there subsituting ingredients for things I had and were cheap rather than the more expensive options of porcini and fois gras.
I would not recommend that you try wrapping the chicken in spiraled strips of pastry as I did. I will give a different idea in the recipe that should give you a pretty sort of plaited effect and be a hell of a lot easier. While I was wrapping these up I swore like a trooper, they were HARD! But if Gordon Ramsey is anything to judge by may be the swearing makes food taste better because these were delicious!
For the mushroom pate:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley
– Put the mushrooms and onion in a large pan and fry until just soft.
– Add the garlic and parsley and stir well.
– Transfer to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and have a large ovenproof dish ready, you may need 2 as the chicken breasts cannot touch.
– Split the chicken breasts on the top down the centre to create ‘boats’. First cut a line straight down then widen the pouch by cutting out to the sides, like an inverted T.
– Roll out the pastry and cut out 4 squares just larger than twice the size of the chicken breasts.
– Place the chicken in the centre of the square.
– Put a large spoonful of pate in the chicken ‘boat’ and smooth down.
– Top this with the mushroom pate to make a small mound.
– Cut strips in the pastry either side of the chicken then start at one end and fold the two strips on opposite sides over towards the other end of the chicken in a V shape.
– Repeat this all along the chicken breast to create a plait effect making sure the whole thing is covered.
– Brush with egg, place in the dish and cook for 30 minutes. If not quite browning turn up to gas 7 for the last 10 minutes.
– Serve with whatever vegetables you like. A simple mushroom cream sauce makes a nice addition but its moist enough to eat without if you wish.
I could make puff pastry from scratch the proper way… but I haven’t yet found a dish where I think it’s actually worth it! This is a perfectly acceptable ‘rough’ puff pastry. I saw Nigella’s recipe for making puff pastry in a food processor and started off with that but then went by way of this ancient tome “Farmhouse Cookery” we have because it was much more helpful in the method. I did use the food processor to do the first bit but frankly5 minutes and a knife would have the same effect. Yes, it would technically take longer but once you factor in getting the food processor out, set up, used and washed up you’re probably more than even. But I’m washing up phobic so I always choose the method with the least amount!
250g strong plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter, cut into 1/2 cm slices
1 tsp lemon juice
5-6 tbsp chilled water
– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and either pulse 3-4 times or cut the butter into the flour repeatedly. Chunks of butter will still be visible.
– Add the lemon juice and enough water to bring the dough together.
– Get in there with your hand to bring the dough together in a ball.
– Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
– Unwrap the dough and roll out on a floured worksurface into a large rectangle 3 times longer than it is wide.
– Fold into thirds (bring the right third over onto the centre third then the left side over on top of that), turn 90* and roll out again.
– Fold into thirds again, turn another 90* and roll out again.
– Repeat another 3-4 times. The dough will become harder and harder to roll out as you go and the buttery chunks will disappear.
– Fold the dough again and rewrap in clingfilm and chill for another 30 minutes.
– Unwrap and roll out the dough to your desired thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Now this isn’t so much a recipe as a collection of foods but even though I have been cooking and eating the Full English for many years this was the first time I felt I had managed to get everything just perfect! The most challenging part of the whole thing for me has always been the fried egg. I’m too impatient. Today I finally cracked it! I have to admit that I didn’t actually cook the fried bread this time, I left it in my mother’s capable hands. Hers is always much better than mine in any event!
Per person allow:
1 slice of white bread
2 rashers of bacon
1 salad tomato, halved if using
1/4 large tin baked beans
1 large portobello mushroom
-Sausages go in first. I grill then under a fairly high heat.
-The fried bread wants to go on next. Cut your bread into triangles then pass one side under the cold tap. Put into a frying pan of fairly hot oil (about 3tbsp) then turn down a bit and leave til the first side is a golden brown. Then flip over and brown the other side.
-When the sausages are brown on one side turn them over and add your bacon to the grill pan with them and turn down the heat to medium. If grilling tomatoes as well put them in here as well skin side up then turn later.
-Put the baked beans in a microwavable bowl with a knob of butter and cover with clingfilm. Microwave on full power for 2 1/2 minutes.
-Heat a few tbsp oil in another frying pan to fairly hot then turn down to low. Crack the egg into a small bowl or saucer. Slide it from the bowl into the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the white is set. Spoon the hot oil over the top of the yolk until it reaches the way you like it.
– Brush or spray your portobello mushrooms with oil and then microwave for 2 minutes and test, microwave in 1 minute blocks until cooked. (Ours took 4 minutes.)
– If necessary give the beans another minute in the microwave to get them piping hot again.
– Everything is ready when the sausages are nicely browned all over and cooked through, the eggs are set, the bacon is soft with crispy edges, the mushroom is tender, the bread is a light golden brown and the beans are hot!
– Plate up and eat!
This “recipe” of course is open to as much variation as you want to give it. Don’t like something? Leave it out. Like your eggs scrambled? Scramble them! Only got little sliced mushrooms? Pan fry them in a small saucepan in a little butter. It’s your breakfast, enjoy it!
This is based on a dish I used to have at a restaurant in Tokyo and loved! You don’t technically have to serve it in the foil parcels as I have but it does give the meat time to take up a little of the flavour of the sauce and you can get on with other things while you leave them in the oven so it’s a good prep ahead then pop it in the oven meal. This was usually served with a baked potato but I chose to have chips tonight as I was in the mood. I’ve also had the burger wrapped in bacon and served with a different sauce or may be no sauce but I can’t for the life of me remember! I’m working on it.
This is a good basic hamburger recipe too and I’m sure would make an excellent burger in a bun on its own. I love Japanese style Western food. So often they take a staple Western food and do wonderful things with it that we would never have thought to do because we’re so used to doing something particular. Although I am informed that this is similar to a Salisbury Steak in America. What I do know is it’s delicious!
I’m dying of cold at the moment so if anything doesn’t make sense here drop me a line and I’ll fix in once I am able to breathe and think again!
For the burger:
1 small onion, finely chopped
500g minced beef
200g sausage meat
1/2 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
pepper to taste
For the sauce:
150g baby button mushrooms, sliced
1 beef stock cube made up into stock*
3 tbsp ketchup
– First lightly fry the onion in a little oil until soft. Allow to cool a little.
– Put everything in a bowl and mix it together with your hand.
– Divide the mixture roughly into 6.
– Gather a portion of the meat in your hand. Roll into a ball then throw the ball forcefully back and forth in your hands to force out the air and flatten it into a patty.
– Gently shape the patty to a circle and create a small hollow so the patty is thinner in the middle. (This allows you to get a flat burger as it compensates for any swelling during cooking.)
– Place the patties on a large plate or chopping board and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably about an hour.
– Melt a small knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms until just browning. Set aside.
– Sprinkle the burgers with a pinch of salt and prepare the foil sheets.
– Fry the burgers in a large frying pan or griddle. Give about 4 minutes each side. Don’t move the burger about once you’ve placed it in the pan until it’s time to turn it or it will fall apart.
– Place the burger in the centre of the sheet of foil and top with a spoonful of mushrooms.
– Deglaze the pan with red wine (tip it in and scrape off any cooked on bits).
– Add the stock and reduce until starting to thicken.
– Add the ketchup and stir in continue to reduce.
– If necessary add a little cornflour slaked in a little water to thicken the sauce. It needs to be quite viscous slow moving. (Make sure to taste the sauce as it can need a little more ketchup to cut the saltiness of the stock cube.)
– Pour a little sauce over each burger.
– Fold the foil up into a tent and fold together the edges to seal. Then fold in the sides to seal those.
– Place the parcels on a baking tray and place in the oven at around gas mark 5 for 10-15 minutes until everything is piping hot again. (If preparing ahead cook for around 30 minutes to ensure food is piping hot all through.)
– When you’re ready simply put the parcel on a plate to serve.
* I only cooked sauce for 1 tonight so I can’t speak as to actual quantities. I just poured!
Tonight we had enchiladas for dinner. I was all prepped and organised, I’d made the sauce and done all of my prep as I had to go out and would only get back in time to eat. Then I got the tortilla wraps out. Disaster! They’d gone off. I knew that mum had made flour tortillas once before so it had to be doable and set off to google a quick recipe for tortillas. I found two that looked good (love recipes with pictures!) and since they were both the same recipe with very different ratios I sort of took a stab at somewhere in the middle and made it up as I went a long. With hindsight I’d use double the fat if I make these again and cook them for no more than 20 seconds each side. As it was these tortillas were very stiff, when I tried to make an enchilada with one it cracked into six pieces. No worries though, dinner became Layered Enchiladas! But first here is the basic recipe for tortillas.
Makes 6 dinner plate sized ones, probably 8 smaller
250g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
50g lard or butter(I used 25g lard*)
100ml warm water plus extra as needed
– Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium sized bowl.
– Rub in the lard or butter using your fingers.
– Add the water and mix well. Add water 1 tbsp at a time mixing between additions until a soft dough has formed.
– Turn out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth.
– Put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.
– Turn out and lightly knead for a minute.
– Divide into equal portions.
– Cover any balls of dough you are not working with.
– Heat a dry frying pan on the hob.
– Roll out the ball of dough until paper thin. Aim for a circle but tidy up the shape by stretching the dough out into shape with your hands. This requires elbow grease. When I say paper I mean it!
– Pick up and carefully place flat in the very hot frying pan.
– Cook for 20-30 seconds each side. Just scare it with the frying pan, don’t leave it or it will dry out too much.
– Place the cooked tortillas under a tea towel in a warm place.
– Repeat for each ball.
*Lard has a bad reputation but can actually be better for you than than butter. I think it has less saturated fat and less cholesterol but I’m not certain just how much better it is. Either way it doesn’t deserve the bad rep. it has.
Hi, I'm Anna and this is what's going on in my kitchen and growing in my garden.
Everything you see here is how it looked as I cooked and ate it. I don't like to make things too fussy. I want you to know that if you try one of my recipes what you see is what you'll get.
Don't forget to leave a comment, I love to know what you're thinking and if you do try out a recipe then let me know how it worked for you. Happy cooking!